Pierre François Villaret

29 April 1830 Milhaud – 28 April 1896 Suresnes

He grew up in Nîmes and worked as a brewer in southern France for many years, singing in amateur choirs in his spare time. One of his choirmasters strongly believed in his ability to become a professional singer, found him a patron, and sent him to Paris, where the patron presented him to the director of the Opéra – who was looking for a tenor, anyway, and engaged Villaret on the spot. That was in August 1862; for the next few months, the Opéra had Villaret's voice trained, and on March 20th, 1863, he made his debut – as Arnold, no less.

He was first tenor at the Opéra until retiring in October 1882 (though he continued to give guest performances for another few years). As a guest, he sang in Brussels and repeatedly in Monte Carlo. His most important roles, other than Arnold, were Henri in Les vêpres siciliennes (Verdi wrote a new aria especially for Villaret), Raoul, Manrico, Vasco da Gama, Éléazar (which he sang in the opening performance of the new Opéra building, the Palais Garnier, on January 5th, 1875), Jean de Leyde, Max, Don Ottavio, Admète (in Gluck's Alceste), Robert le diable, Fernand (La favorite), Masaniello and Gérard (La reine de Chypre by Halévy). From 1885, he switched to comprimario parts like Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor.

Reference 1; reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens

Arnold chronology

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